World Swimming Bans Transgender Athletes From Women’s Events

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The world swimming governing body has banned transgender women from competing in women’s events starting Monday.

FINA members widely adopted a new “gender inclusion policy” on Sunday that only allows swimmers who transitioned before the age of 12 to compete in women’s events. The organization also proposed an “open competition category”.

“This is not to say that people are encouraged to transition at the age of 12. It’s what scientists say, that if you transition after the start of puberty, you have an advantage, which is unfair.” James Pearce, who is the spokesman for FINA President Husain Al-Musallam, told The Associated Press.

“They’re not saying everyone should transition at 11, that’s ridiculous. You can’t transition at that age in most countries and hopefully they won’t encourage you to do so. Basically what they’re saying is that it’s not feasible for people who have transitioned to compete without having an advantage.”

Pearce confirmed that there are currently no transgender women competing at the elite levels of swimming.

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health just lowered their recommended minimum age to start gender transition hormone treatment at 14 and some surgeries at 15 or 17.

FINA’s new 24-page policy also proposed a new category of “open competition.” The organization said it was creating “a new task force that will spend the next six months looking at the most effective ways to establish this new category.”

Pearce told the AP that open competition would likely mean more events, but those details have yet to be ironed out.

“No one really knows how this is going to work. And we need to include a lot of different people, including transgender athletes, to figure out how that would work,” she said. “So there are no details of how it would work. The open category is something that will begin to be discussed tomorrow”.

Members voted in favor by 71.5% at the organization’s extraordinary general meeting after hearing presentations from three specialist groups (an athlete group, a science and medicine group, and a legal and human rights group) that they had been working together to form the following policy recommendations given by the International Olympic Committee last November.

The IOC urged a shift in focus from individual testosterone levels and called for evidence to show when a performance advantage existed.

FINA’s new “deeply discriminatory, harmful and unscientific” policy “is not in line with the (IOC’s) framework on fairness, inclusion and non-discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and sexual variation”. Anne Lieberman of Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization that advocates for LGBTQ athletes, said in a statement.

“The eligibility criteria for the women’s category as set out in the policy will (monitor) the bodies of all women, and cannot be enforced without seriously violating the privacy and human rights of any athlete seeking to compete in the category. feminine,” Lieberman said.

FINA said it recognizes “that some people and groups may be uncomfortable with the use of medical and scientific terminology related to sex and sex-related traits (but) some use of sensitive terminology is needed to be precise about the sex characteristics that justify a separate competition”. categories.”

In March, Lia Thomas made history in the United States as the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship, the 500-yard freestyle.

Thomas said last month on ABC’s “Good Morning America” ​​that she aspired to become an Olympic swimmer. She also took issue with those who say she has an unfair biological advantage that blights the integrity of women’s athletics, saying “trans women are not a threat to women’s sports.”

Thomas did not immediately respond to a message left with the University of Pennsylvania seeking comment.

Dr. Alireza Hamidian Jahromi, co-director of the Center for Gender Affirming Surgery at Temple University Hospitals in Philadelphia, said 12 is an arbitrary age.

“Where did that 12 come from?” he said. “Is that a specific age that everyone is supposed to have gone through puberty, because that may not be the case?”

The age of puberty varies for different people, he said.

Hamidian Jahromi said the transition involves three stages: social, medical with hormones, and surgical. “Which of these three are you referring to? In case the patient has been operated on by that time, which is almost impossible,” he said.

Other sports have also been examining their rules around transgender athletes.

On Thursday, cycling’s governing body updated its eligibility rules for transgender athletes with stricter limits that will force riders to wait longer before they can compete.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) increased the transition period in low testosterone levels to two years and lowered the maximum accepted level of testosterone. The previous transition period was 12 months, but the UCI said recent scientific studies show that “expected adaptations in muscle mass and muscle strength/power” among athletes who have transitioned from male to female take at least two years. .


AP reporter Jennifer Sinco Kelleher in Honolulu contributed to this report.


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Ciarán Fahey, The Associated Press

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